To IB or not to IB? Is IB worth it? Two great questions.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum offers a globalized, quality education prioritizing your skills in writing, critical thinking, creativity, and service to communities.
Not sure if it’s the right path for you?
Our comprehensive list of pros and cons of the IB program will help you decide on what’s best for your interests and goals! This article describes 25 pros and cons of the IB program. We are going to discuss the advantages of the IB program, along with common criticisms of the IB program, and the difficulty of IB in different contexts.
By the end of this comprehensive article, you will have a solid foundation on the benefits of IB and how it can strengthen your college application!
15 Pros of the International Baccalaureate Program
Let’s start with the pros of the IB program to lay the groundwork for your decision-making.
1. Globalized diploma
The IB diploma is a globally recognized diploma across the U.S. and surrounding countries. This means that your hard work is recognized by a variety of institutions, including those outside of the U.S., with high regard.
2. Facilitates entry into colleges outside of the U.S.
With IB, you are at a global state of education. If you are interested in attending college outside of the U.S., IB diplomas can make entry much easier than students with a traditional high school diploma.
3. Cultivates beyond education skills
The IB curriculum is designed to cultivate well-rounded individuals with proper critical thinking skills and understanding of cultures outside of their own. The IB expands on both your personal and educational skills, challenging students beyond their current high school education to prepare them for advanced coursework at the university level.
4. Rewarding educational experience
The main advantage of IB is that it prioritizes well-rounded education for a more rewarding and worthwhile educational experience. Many students have shared that while it was a lot of work to accomplish, the curriculum ultimately shaped their identity as a decent human being who thinks critically about their actions.
5. Strengthens your college application
IB diplomas look great on a college application!
Not only will your application stand out because you have completed a globalized curriculum, but your application will show your potential. Colleges are looking for the skills cultivated from IB programs in future applicants.
6. College Credit
Passing grades on IB exams can be used for college credit, if permitted. However, this will depend on the policies of a given institution.
Another advantage to IB is the cost compared to college tuition!
Not only does it have the potential to waive college courses, but it is also cost-effective. While there are costs to registration and exams, these costs are much less than college tuition will cost you in the future. Make it a goal to minimize what you will need to pay in college.
8. Cut down time for college completion
By taking the exam for college credit, you will cut down cost of classes needed to complete college. And, by cutting down classes, you will minimize the time needed to complete your college degree, getting you far closer to your goals.
9. Strengthens your writing skills
Another advantage of the IB program is that it will strengthen your writing skills, preparing you for advanced coursework and professional settings. After two years in the IB program, you will have mastered university style writing demonstrated in extended essays, research papers, and other reports.
10. Prepares you for college and beyond
Outside of writing, many former students have claimed the IB program as the best strategy for college preparation overall. You’ll be more prepared for college courses, which typically require much more extensive writing and critical thinking skills. You’ll also be more prepared for a professional job position, where you are required to write meeting memos, emails, summary reports, or lead independent research.
11. Develops professional skills
Another advantage of the IB program is that it will help strengthen professional skills needed for graduate coursework or jobs. Because the IB program requires discipline, good study habits, consistency, and dedication, you are slowly learning how to apply these skills independently for the success of your projects. These types of skills will not only prepare you for college, but will also prepare you for even more advanced graduate coursework.
12. Holistic learning experience
This benefit will ultimately depend on your learning style; but IB programs provide a more holistic learning experience than traditional high schools. The IB students integrate all their components into an essay paper or independent research project, demonstrating skills in an in-depth assessment of content.
This is considered a benefit if you have a very independent and flexible learning style. You can always test these types of classes out without completing the program.
13. Community, Activity, Service Experience
Do you get bored in the classroom?
The creativity, activity and service (CAS) component of IB programs forces you to think beyond textbooks. Students engage in projects that demonstrate leadership, collaboration, and problem-solving strategies with a community of interest. CAS experience typically look like volunteerism—building houses, volunteering for events, assisting with programs, educating low-income communities, etc.
Many students say that this the most worthwhile experience of the program because they wouldn’t have gotten the CAS experience otherwise.
14. You can start as early as pre-school
Another great benefit to the IB program relates to its application to diverse age ranges. While the central IB program prioritizes high school students; there are other programs for younger children to engage in critical thinking skills.
This is mostly a benefit to parents who are interested in putting their children in IB education. Some common criticisms of IB programs have noted how children do not actually learn material outside of their age ranges; but the focus should be on the globalized approach cultivating children’s new skills.
15. A journey not taken by many
Remember that this is not a journey taken by many. IB programs are not very common, and completion of IB diplomas are even more uncommon. You are entering a special space that provides you with exclusive access to funding (from some colleges) and fellowship.
10 Cons of the International Baccalaureate Program
There are always two sides to a coin!
It wouldn’t be fair to leave you without a list of cons of the IB program to guide your decision.
We’ll start with 10 cons of the IB program; remember these may not always apply to you.
1. IB is a lot of work
The IB curriculum offers opportunities that strengthen skills for professional and academic settings; but, the IB program is a lot of work. However, we don’t want the difficulty of IB programs to scare you off because you would be surprised at how much you can get done if you just put your mind to it.
IB requirements are extensive, with extended essay writing, an independent research project, and demonstrations of physical service. However, many students have found these components of the curriculum rewarding to their individual development.
2. Length of study
The IB diploma requires the completion of six subject groups taken within two years. This is in addition to your high school coursework; however, some IB classes can be taken in place of high school courses for credit to meet IB diploma requirement. This will ultimately depend on whether your school offers this option.
You will need to commit time after school to write or conduct research projects. Some students stated that this compromised their commitments to after school activities or other hobbies.
3. Less flexibility
Another con of the IB program is that there is much less flexibility to the curriculum as opposed to Advanced Placement (AP) courses or traditional high school courses.
For instance, you are unable to complete IB diploma requirements online; most classes need to be taken in person. As opposed to AP courses, you can actually complete those online and receive credit, making them more accessible to a wider range of students.
In addition to the instructor, schools must be accredited with central IB training; it is not a validated IB curriculum without the instructor or school accreditation. This makes the IB program much less flexible than other programs out there.
4. Requirements are strict
This con of the IB program is related to its inflexibility. Additionally, the requirements to complete the program are pretty strict. You cannot replace classes or subjects with other topics. You also cannot waive out of CAS requirements.
You will find it hard for the IB curriculum to make considerations for students who may not have access or resources to complete the IB requirements.
5. Not a good match for everyone
The IB curriculum is not always a good match for everyone. You need to be an independent, driven, self-starter to succeed in this program.
Students might also find it difficult to accustom to a completely different learning style than what is offered in high school curriculums within the U.S.
For instance, critical thinking writing skills are not as emphasized in the U.S. But, this is one of the core components of IB curriculums. This might be more difficult for someone who hasn’t been prepared to write with a critical lens.
Another example might be a student who is not a self-starter, making the difficulty of the IB program much more challenging.
We do encourage you to test out IB classes to see if this is right fit for you. Sometimes learning styles can change or we can adapt easily to different environments. Sometimes you may find that this is a new curriculum that you actually enjoy. It really all depends on the person and their interests.
6. Not as integrated in the U.S. school system
Unfortunately, chances are that your high school does not have the capacity to offer IB courses. We find this to be a major con to the IB program. While it may make your application stand out with the IB diploma; it is extremely difficult to find a location that offers IB courses fully to meet diploma requirements.
As we mentioned earlier about the requirements, IB courses can only be offered through high schools that have gone through an accreditation with the central IB organization and with an instructor who has gone through the same training.
7. Can’t take the exam without taking the course
This ties in with the con we discussed about the lack flexibility in IB programs. You cannot self-study for the subject exams; you will need to complete the subject group requirements in order to obtain the IB diploma. As opposed to AP courses which allow you to self-study and complete the examination by Spring.
The IB curriculum must be taught by an accredited instructor who has been trained in IB programming. Without the IB instructor, there is no IB curriculum, so you’ll need to take the classes to meet requirements for the exam.
Since the IB program is a lot work, you will need to master your time management skills. When deciding to take IB courses, think about the time you’re willing to commit to this and make sure to incorporate a time management system in place to do this.
You will find that many IB students have mastered time management skills to succeed in the IB curriculum, along with their extracurricular activities.
9. Limited range of subjects
Remember when we mentioned that the IB diploma requires the completion of six subject groups within the span of two years? Well, six subject groups are all that you can pick from. If you happen to have an interest in a different field or area of study, you won’t have the opportunity to expand on it here.
This is much more rigid from having the opportunity to create a course based on a specific skill set to expand on with your extracurricular coursework.
We consider this component as a con because requirements are very strictly adhered to the six subject groups and the classes therein. If you have a specific topic or content area in mind, make sure to check through the list of classes to see if there’s any opportunity to cultivate that interest. Otherwise, the class list is set on the IB curriculum.
10. Costs of exams and registration fees can add up
Another important con relates to the costs of exams and registration fees. While we think this is still much less than college tuition or college courses, it can certainly add up, especially if you are taking an exam for each of the six subject groups.
IB registration is estimated at $160, with additional fees of up to $170 for subject group examinations. This will depend on the number of exams you take and on your school. If you plan to take all six subject group exams, you’re looking at about $700 for an IB diploma.
Is IB Right For You? 7 Questions to Ask Yourself
1. Do I have what it takes to handle the difficulty of an IB course?
The difficulty of IB programs can drive students away. Think about your current skills and what you will need to complete a more challenging curriculum. If you need a more challenging curriculum based on your prior school experiences, then this might be the right path for you.
2. Does the IB curriculum align my personal and professional goals?
Check out the subject groups and classes offered in the IB curriculum. Do you see how this might contribute to your academic development for college or other career goals? Make sure that the coursework is aligned with your interests.
3. Do I want to take IB courses or go to the full IB diploma
This relates to your goals and interests. Are the courses useful for expanding specific skills or would you prefer the benefits of the full diploma for a globalized standing of your accomplishments? This really depends on the college you want to go to and what it is you hope to accomplish.
4. Do I have the resources to complete the program for full IB diploma
We talked about time and money. This is important to think about when deciding to pursue the IB program. Do you have the necessary resources to complete the requirements for IB diploma? Do you have the time and money to study exams, process the exam fees, write your essay?
5. What advantages will the IB program provide me with that stands apart from others?
Make sure to consider what the IB program will provide you with that can’t be gained from another program. What advantages described on our list might be particularly useful to meet your goals?
6. Will I have the time to commit to the curriculum requirements and responsibilities from extracurricular activities?
IB programs can take a lot of time and dedication; so much to the extent that some students have had to compromise their extracurricular activities or risk burnout. Think about the types of responsibilities you are expected to have in your high school career. Are extracurricular activities particularly important to you and your career goals?
7. Do I foresee any situation that might derail my abilities or capacities to complete the full IB diploma?
Do you move a lot? Are there any life events that cause you constant stress?
Make sure to think about your current environment and how this might impact your schooling. Are there any situations that you know lie ahead? Will these situations be distracting?
You may not always know answers to these questions, but always make sure to think about how life events and their affiliated stressors can impact your capacities to complete the IB program.
Wrapping Things Up: Key Takeaways to Remember on Pros and Cons of IB
IB programs are one of the most distinguished forms of college preparation centered on a globalized curriculum. If you are asking yourself is IB worth it, you’ll need as many details on the pros and cons of IB programs to guide your decision.
The main thing to remember is that IB programs can be a great opportunity for someone with the right circumstances; not everyone and their interests align with IB program goals.
At this point, you’ve learned about the advantages of the IB program with our list of pros; you’ve also learned about the extent of difficulty of the IB program with our list of cons. Remember to use our questions to help guide your decision on what is best for you and your career goals.
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